Horowhenua’s Economic Board members win 2017 award (for secrecy)
By KIN Horowhenua correspondent Veronica Harrod (Part I of II)
My choice for Local Horowhenua Politicians of 2017 goes to members of the Council’s Economic Development Board. But this is for all the wrong reasons: Secrecy, lack of democracy and lack of public input.
After an Official Information Act request was made for the 2016 and 2017 HDC economic board minutes, the council removed information about the economic development board from its website.
Council’s communications advisor Trish Hayward said, “Council is in the process of updating the information, layout and photographs on the Horowhenua Economic Development Board page of our website.
Information page ‘deactivated’
“The page has been temporarily deactivated while the update is carried out. We expect the update to be complete, and the page to be reactivated, early this year.”
Former mayor Brendan Duffy led the charge to bring the economic development board’s predecessor Enterprise Horowhenua back under council control and Mr Duffy features prominently in
Horowhenua’s economic development 2014-2017 strategy referred to as, “a ten year vision to guide three year outcomes, priorities, actions and initiatives.”
The council document states the strategy was developed “with business as well as the council, regional council, central government and our key partners.”
The intention of council to take, “an active role…by leading the development of this strategy, and committing to its priority actions” was signed off by Mr Duffy despite the fact residents were not consulted about the economic strategy.
A key initiative of the strategy to, “review council’s development contributions policy to support Horowhenua’s economic development agenda” is indicative of the amount of influence the strategy has over the direction and decisions council makes that reverberates today.
Land development galore
Since council canned development contributions in 2015 a plethora of land development projects have been rolled out which are outlined in the 2008 Horowhenua Development Plan created after council held publicly-excluded workshops with land developers.
This means two very influential documents created by the few (and, arguably, for the few) are having a disproportionate amount of power and influence over decisions made by council.
To realise the strategy’s aims and objectives, and demonstrating the amount of influence the economic strategy has, council has created three roles including an economic development manager, Shanon Grainger; a growth response project manager, Daniel Haigh; and it has recently appointed a “customer and development enabler” Melissa Hanson.
In a media release the council says the customer and developer enabler role has been created specifically to, “provide a more personalised service to valued business customers.”
Residents dogged by unelected board
The majority of Horowhenua residents are increasingly finding themselves caught in a ‘tail wagging the dog’ political environment where the economic development board is the tail determining the direction and decisions of council which is the dog and not a very friendly dog at that.
The strategy states an intention to take, “economic development…to the centre of council’s actions” but the economic development board does not have a mandate to do so because it isn’t bound by the Local Government Act, or its legal requirement to consult or be transparent and accountable in its actions and motivations.
Part Two on who the economic development board members are and how they are wielding control over the council will be discussed in detail in the following days.